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Pro Perl Parsing Hardcover – Aug 23 2005
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About the Author
Christopher M. Frenz is a bioinformaticist at New York Medical College and is the author of Visual Basic and Visual Basic.NET for Scientists and Engineers. Frenz is an expert in Perl and scientific programming, in addition to the .NET platform.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Then come 30 pages with a manual-page style explanation of Damian Conway's Parse::RecDescent module, along with some interesting tidbits here and there.
However, I would have expected to read a better explanation of the underlying parsing theory, like a distilled and simplified version of the "Dragon" book (Aho, "Compilers"). I would have liked to read how to write a custom parser from scratch in Perl, like in Mark Jason Dominus' "Higher Order Perl". Also, I would have expected more practical examples on how to tackle common parsing problems.
However, the second half of the book starts with an explanation of the HTML language. We get to know how titles and lists and links are done in HTML. Then we learn how to fetch web pages with Perl. Also, we learn about web services via SOAP and XML-RPC, about formatting output in Perl and are getting a chapter on "data mining". These topics aren't related to "parsing" at all, though.
There's an example on page 202 on how to parse command line arguments by lumping them all together to form a single string and then firing up an expensive recursive descent parser to tear them apart. Experienced Perl programmers would solve this common problem elegantly in a single line of Perl, using the Getopt::Std module.
So, I'm somewhat ambivalent on this book. Since there's not many books on Perl parsing, I was excited about it, but I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of depth, accuracy, and the filler-style second half of the book. I would have liked to read more about parsing in Perl and less about how to use CPAN modules dealing with parsing-related topics. Had the book maintained a strong focus on plain "parsing", it could have been a slam-dunk five-star. So, it's only three -- worth reading, but not a potential classic.
So whether you have to parse structured or semi-structured text, you want to build yourself a little command language, you need to scan gobs of web or other documents for information, or have any parsing task where your regexes are just getting out of hand, then check out this book.
P.S. I don't know what psychoactives the first reviewer had consumed, but this book is not about "medical-text processing in particular," or even generally. It could be used for that, but it is a general, intermediate-to-advanced book on parsing with Perl. If you were thinking of buying it, it is what you think it is, and not what Dr. Oscar thinks it is.
I liked that this introduced and explained parsing related CPAN modules that I otherwise might have been afraid to touch (CPAN is a great resource, but there's so much there that it intimidates those of us who aren't real Perl experts).
The examples generally related to things I do every day, so that was helpful. I'll need to spend more time in the grammar sections, and try out some of the CPAN modules, but this book is a definite keeper.